After building up one of the state’s most successful furniture companies, woodworker Erie Sauder paid tribute to northwest Ohio’s pioneers with an open-air museum dedicated to re-creating the idyllic charm of a 19th-century rural village. To make his dream an even more vivid reality, Sauder moved dozens of historical structures to the village, restoring them and filling them with traditional pottery and tinsmithing shops, general stores, and schools. Costumed actors guide visitors of all ages through the traditional chores and activities of the 1800s, such as singing hymns, shearing sheep, or rebooting the hard drive on the printing press. Exhibits place guests directly into the lives and experiences of the Great Black Swamp’s settlers, from the earliest native peoples to the hardworking farmers and master craftsfolk of the late 1800s.
As patrons send themselves back in time with the village’s sights and sounds, they treat their taste buds to handmade sweet rolls from the Doughbox bakery, or dine on feasts of roast beef and chicken amid the hand-hewn rafters of the Barn Restaurant. Overnight guests lodge at the spacious campground or the beautiful Heritage Inn, replete with exercise rooms, a gorgeous 25-foot tree, and WiFi access powered by a horse on a treadmill.
Tiffany's Cafe cobbles together breakfast classics and homestyle lunch and dinner entrees in a setting that harkens back to 1950s diners. An expansive menu tempts breakfast-goers to try the ham-laden denver omelet ($6.50), which swirls onions and peppers in with two eggs and cheese. Conquer a mountain of meat with a Choo-choo burger, an open-faced chili cheeseburger ($4.35), or help your tongue brush up on French by taking a bite out of a chicken cordon bleu sandwich ($5.50), which arrives decked in ham and swiss cheese. Whales vacationing on land can feast on a familiar shrimp dinner ($7.99) while groaning small talk at the eatery's friendly staff.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
At Timbers Steakhouse and Seafood, chefs craft dinners from a menu of surf-and-turf classics paired with all-American eats. Appetizers include traditional pub fare such as cheese fries, garlic mushrooms, and chicken wings in flavors such as buffalo, garlic, and mango habanero. Classic caesar, chef's, and spinach salads pave the way for burgers made from 100% ground sirloin. Pounds of snow-crab legs arrive with a coverlet of melted butter, whereas sautéed tilapia comes encrusted in a combination of panko and pecans.
Steak is, of course, the main event. Hand-cut rib eyes, filets mignons wrapped in bacon, and thick, unyielding portions of porterhouse that clock in at 20 ounces are dusted in the restaurant’s secret spice blend and charbroiled to order. Chefs also slice off portions of slow-cooked, tender prime rib served with horseradish sauce upon request.
In addition to the regular menu, Wednesday evenings boast a selection of Mexican food such as tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas, and Thursday shows off pasta prowess with Italian favorites. Although most dinners unfold in the spacious lower-story dining room, Timbers also makes the most of its attic. The restaurant's upper-story A-frame loft houses a banquet facility equipped with seating for up to 120, with custom menus, full bar service, DJs, and photographers available.
Founded in 1878 and operated by the Freeman family since 1948, the St. James Restaurant serves authentic German and American dishes in a historic building. Don your finest tweed suit and fake mustache and peruse the menu in the dignified ambience of the antique bar and dining room. The homemade chicken noodle or bean soup ($1.99 cup, $2.99 bowl) provides classic, satisfying options for diners who only take nourishment through a curly straw, and the hand-cut prime-rib options ($17.99 for 16 oz. King cut; $15.99 for 12 oz. Knights cut; and $13.99 for 8 oz. Queens cut). St. James also offers bona fide German dinners, including wiener schnitzel ($12.99), after 4 p.m.
Margarita Beach exudes a laid-back atmosphere thanks to its casual decor, full-service bar, and menu filled with familiar Mexican eats. Pair a fruit-flavored margarita or mai tai with chicken nachos or shrimp tacos, or opt for a full feast—specialty dinners include carne asada, Mexican T-bone steaks, and grilled tilapia. Veggie options, as well as fajitas, quesadillas, and burritos packed with a variety of fillings, round out the menu.